Centennial ends east-side dominance with D-I football title

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                </div>  The Division I state championship football game has provided some great story lines in recent years – and this year is no exception. Last year, Chandler High School beat […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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The Division I state championship football game has provided some great story lines in recent years – and this year is no exception.

Last year, Chandler High School beat perennial power Hamilton High to claim the school’s first state football title in 65 years, putting an end to a 15-year run of frustration in which the Wolves suffered through 17 straight losses to the mighty Huskies, their in-town rival.

And they did it in dominating fashion with a 28-7 title victory that put an exclamation mark on their achievement.

This year, it was No. 6 Centennial High School that provided the next chapter in the Arizona high school history book with an almost identical 28-6 final score to beat No. 4 Desert Ridge High School and become the first school on record to win back-to-back state titles in two different divisions since the bracket format was developed more than 50 years ago.

The Coyotes beat top-seeded Liberty High for the 2014 state title in Division II, the first championship for the Centennial program in seven years – and then moved up to join the big boys in Division I for the 2015 season.

There was no question that Centennial, which now has five state titles on its resume, could play at this level – even though many of its opponents had enrollments that were much larger than its 2,000 or so students.  But not many would have predicted a state championship in the first year playing in the state’s top division.

But there was more on the line than a state title.  The win by Centennial, which is located in Peoria on the west side of the Phoenix metro Valley, finally gave the west-side football programs something to brag about.  It was 1982 when Moon Valley High School at 36th Ave. and Cactus won a state title – the last time a west-side team was crowned champion in the state’s top division.  Since that time, the trophies have been handed out each year to D-I schools east of the I-17 dividing line.

This year, Centennial went 12-2 and climbed over some of the best East Valley teams to get to the title game, beating Basha High from Chandler, then reigning state champ Chandler High, and finally Phoenix Mountain Pointe High School in the semifinals.

Centennial took charge early in the title game at University of Phoenix Stadium by marching 49 yards, fueled by a 35-yard pass completion from Isaac Steele to Connor Sovacki, to score on its first possession and take a 7-0 lead the Coyotes would hold the rest of the way.

Quentin Gomez. the Coyotes’ 5’9″ senior running back, put that first score on the board from four yards out and then followed up with a second rushing touchdown to put Centennial up 14-3 after a DV field goal by Antonio Decozio.  The junior kicker contributed two field goals for the team’s only scores.

Gomez finished the night with 106 yards on 25 carries, while back-field teammate John Rincon got the call 12 times and ran for 69 yards.

Steele completed seven of 10 pass attempts on the night to finish with 71 yards, but it was the Coyotes’ ground game behind a big and talented offensive line that overwhelmed the Ridge.  Centennial piled up 345 total yards of offense, with 276 coming on the ground.

The Jaguars were held to just 62 yards rushing, while their junior quarterback, C.J. Fowler, was able to pick up 143 yards on 10-of-26 passing.